Sunday, 12 October 2008
Thanksgiving is here again, and everybody is eating Turkey, and yams, and spending time with family. I'm having dinner later today myself. I really look forward to those yams with the marshmallows my brother-in-law does. Also, the dressing - probably my favorite thing of all.
However, with all these Thanksgiving traditions (it's the same at Christmas), we often forget what the Holiday is for. Thanksgiving is a time where we enjoy the harvest, and the bounties that the earth has provided, and we thank the being that has provided for us. That being that provided everything for us is different for everybody - for there are many different belief systems in the world. I was asked to speak in church today on Gratitude in honor of the holiday. So, I'm going to share with you my talk as it was given - in a Mormon church, with very Mormon references and quotations. So, pretend you're in church listening to it. Also, let me know what you think....
I began preparing this talk by listing the things I was grateful for. The list included various levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as well as some wants. The truth is, that we are all blessed with so much on this earth – and more especially in this country, and in this church than we ever take thought for. My list included things like...
A Place to live
Food to eat from the bounty of the earth
Clothes to Wear
The Right to Vote and think freely
Living in a free country
My Family and Friends
Scriptures to Learn from
A Hope for Something better
The Atonement and constant Love of our Saviour Jesus Christ
My list became longer, the longer I sat there and pondered, and so would each of ours if we really thought about it. I think if we sat in one spot and thought about what we have to be grateful for, we could probably sit there forever and the Lord would continually bring more and more to our remembrance of what we have been given.
We owe everything we have to him. Nothing that we have on this earth came from any other place than from our dear Father in Heaven who sent us here.
Brigham Young had much to say (as he always did) on the subject of gratitude...
“I do not know of any, excepting the unpardonable sin, that is greater than the sin of ingratitude”(DBY, 228).
“I might say something with regard to the hard times. You know that I have told you that if any one was afraid of starving to death, let him leave, and go where there is plenty. I do not apprehend the least danger of starving, for until we eat up the last mule, from the tip of the ear to the end of the fly whipper, I am not afraid of starving to death. There are many people who cannot now get employment, but the spring is going to open upon us soon, and we are not going to suffer any more than what is for our good. I am thankful for the hand of the Lord which is visible; I am as thankful for this providence of his as for any that I ever received. I have told you, years ago, my feelings with regard to their sympathies, their faith, gratitude and thankfulness, and their acknowledgement of the hand of the Lord and of the dispensations of his providence. My soul has been grieved to bleeding, to see the waste, and the prodigal feeling of this people in the use of their bountiful blessings. Many have walked them underfoot, and have been ready to curse God who bestowed them. They wanted gold and silver, instead of wheat and corn, and fine flour, and the best vegetables that ever grew upon the earth. They walked them underfoot, and set at nought the choice blessings of the Lord their God”(DNW, 6 Feb. 1856, 4).
Brother Brigham calls ingratitude the next greatest sin to the unpardonable one of denying the Holy Ghost. Why do you think that is? Do you agree with him? If you believe he was a Prophet, then you ought to, for it is true. We are blessed with so much in this world, most of which we do not acknowledge, but take for granted. We take it for granted until it is taken away from us.
I like how Brother Brigham spoke of the saints' reactions to hard times...
It is true that when things are going well for us, we do take for granted what the Lord has blessed us with, but when things turn sour, we turn to him for help. We expect him to “bail us out” as it were. When we humble ourselves before him, he will always be there to help us. He forgives us again and again and THAT is another thing we ought to be eternally grateful for.
Hard times are coming for us at this time in the world...
Anyone who lived through the '80's can see that the boom is very soon coming to an end. I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, but it's true, and ought we to be afraid? Well, in the words of Brother Brigham, “ I do not apprehend the least danger of starving, for until we eat up the last mule, from the tip of the ear to the end of the fly whipper, I am not afraid of starving to death” So ought to be our attitude about the times to come. We live day to day, and we have been warned from the very beginning to be prepared for emergencies. If we have faith, and rely on the Lord, he will provide for us what we need to get through those times to come. For this, we must be grateful. I am not the least bit afraid of the struggles to come.
That's another thing I'm really grateful for... trials. I've had a few in my young life. More than a few, and what I'm grateful for is the things I have learned from them. I know because of former experiences, that everything – no matter how hard it seems at the time can be conquered and gotten through with the help of my Father in Heaven. He got me through, he helped me to learn from the trials. I could have become embittered, however I didn't because he opened my eyes to understanding. I'm now a better person because of the things he's taught me through my experiences.
I am reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith's experience in Liberty Jail where he was in the very depths of despair. His friends and family and all of the saints were suffering a great deal far from where he was – feeling helpless and alone in the prision with an ironic name. He cried out to the Lord - “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavillion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?...” The Lord's response to his prayer always softens my heart when I read it... “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes, Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job...” then later in the same revelation... “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou , my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”... then comes the sentence that puts it all into persepective for me... “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” Found in D&C 121/122.
It is true, that trials and tribulations in our lives contribute to our growth and our refining process. Often in the gospel we hear this term – the refiner's fire... the refiner's fire is the process in which precious metals are separated from the dross (a mass of solid impurities within the metal). Usually this process consists in the application of great heat, in order to bring the mass into a fluid state. That way, the dross can be separated from the finer metals. My bible dictionary describes Christ as “The Great Refiner”. It describes him many other ways as well, but this is one description that draws my attention at this time. Why would the saviour ask us to go through a process that can be so painful? Mainly because he wants us to have the chance to become more like him. No one can comprehend the suffering he went through for us. Not only on the cross, but the actual mental and emotional, also physical anguish he suffered as he offered his great intercessory prayer for us – each of us – and our sins. He wants us to have a chance to become more like him. Though, not one of us will ever have to suffer what he did, he offers us a chance to grow and be perfected as we go through our refining process. This is what I am most grateful for – of anything I have been blessed with. I am eternally and ever grateful for my Saviour and His great Atonement. For he suffered, so that I do not have to, that I may receive Eternal life and live with him one day. All he requires of us, is our humility and our gratitude. What do you think he meant when he said to Joseph - “ And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high”? To endure it well in this case, I believe is to show the Lord our gratitude, and ever be aware of where our blessings come from. To recognize our own weakness, and dependence on him. For – he is the source of all that we have. I hope each of us can ponder the infinite blessings he has bestowed on us this Thanksgiving weekend and forever.
One last scripture I wish to share with you that comes from King Benjamin's speech in Mosiah 2. King Benjamin was a great king in the Book of Mormon who lived the gospel principles and taught his people to live them. He gathered his people together for one last discourse before he died, and taught many things, this is one of the things he taught them... (Mosiah 2: 19-22)
19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your Heavenly King!
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
It is true, that what the Lord asks us to do over and over again is to keep his commandments. I feel that this is the best way we can show our gratitude to him. We can thank him verbally in our prayers, and ought to – daily. But, actions always have spoken louder than words, and therefore, the best we can do to show him thanks is to act upon and be obedient to his commandments.
Again, I wish to express to you – my brothers and sisters the importance of gratitude, in truly appreciating where our blessings come from. He is the source, He is the truth, and He is the light. He loves us so very much, and I hope we can all feel that in our hearts daily.
I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen...
So, that was the talk I gave in church today. I hope we can all ponder the meaning of the thanksgiving holiday, and appreciate (as we have been more and more) where our turkey comes from, and where our yams grew, and who provided those blessings. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving. xx